Great Accommodations in the Annapolis Valley

Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia (Map)

Summer 2015


Even though I had just visited Prince Edward Island, I was perfectly fine with going back when 3 of my good friends all had Canada Day off of work.

Peacefully sleeping away on the ferry, I awoke annoyed as always at the announcement that we would be docking in North Sydney, Nova Scotia in one hour. For how much I hate Marine Atlantic waking us lounge sleepers up so early with this announcement, it's funny that I now remember the sunrise more than my bitterness.


Bringing a car onto the ferry, it wasn't long before the four hours to Halifax were conquered and Turkish food was being consumed. Halifax has two Turkish restaurants and while I loved the Cafe Istanbul1 so much that I wanted to go back, sadly today it was closed for the holiday.

Instead it was over to Spring Garden Road's Turkish Delight, which was just as good, if not better. I had the lamb beyti kebab, which is grilled ground lamb wrapped in Turkish flatbread with tomato sauce and yogourt. It was so tasty that the above picture makes me long to be back in Halifax.

1 - now known as Efes Turkish Cuisine

Needing to work off that rich meal, there were thoughts of a nostalgic visit to the Halifax Commons skatepark, but I hadn't rode there enough when I lived in Nova Scotia to get very teary-eyed about it. Instead I went to one of the new, higher grade skateparks that has popped up around the province in recent years.

Fighting off today's July heat wave, Spryfield ended up being a decent spot in the end. There were unique ramps and lots of space, which is always a formula for a high quality skatepark in my eyes. I enjoyed sliding down the kinked rail a handful of times, then went into broken record mode trying to rail ride the curved flat rail.

Turkish Delight & a visit to Spryfield is an afternoon I'd be happy to recreate anytime.

The accommodations tonight were about 2 hours away in the Annapolis Valley near Annapolis Royal. As it was Canada Day and I obviously wasn't thinking, all of the liquor stores were closed. This was the type of place where you just needed to have a nice glass of wine or a cold beer though, so along the way to dinner in Digby, I pulled off the road when I saw a sign for the Bear River Vineyards and Winery.

Pulling up to a barn that encroached the Bear River road, it was after hours as we arrived, but the owners were still around and the lovely lady said she could hurriedly give us a bit of the standard spiel and then sell us some wine.

This expanded into an hour at the winery, where even though the amazing accommodations were waiting, this was also a scenic vineyard with the operations in an old barn built in 1883. I was more than happy when she offered to quickly tour us around the facility & show us how they had converted and preserved portions of this old horse/wheat barn.

After the winery, we rushed into Digby because of the delicious scallops I had there with Geordie 7 years ago. It was back to the same Fundy Restaurant and to the same view out upon the Bay of Fundy, where the scallops were easily worth the effort of driving out to Digby (even if the evening was a bit chilly).

After Digby we were running out of daylight & took the main highway instead of the familiar NS-1 trunk road. Leaving the highway at the exit for Annapolis Royal, the village of Lequille came soon enough.

In Lequille, I kept my eyes peeled and eventually followed the turn onto an even more remote road. Rounding a corner, up ahead there she was, the church I had seen in StreetView and online pictures.

Have you figured out why I keep carrying on about the accommodations yet?

By chance, this old Anglican Church was available for a one night stay between its usual 3- and 5-day stays. I emailed the owner and asked about this one night and he was more than happy to rent it out, even working with me because I'm not giving AirBNB a picture of my identification (the church owner simply moved our transaction over to another website).

Walking inside, not only is all of the woodwork preserved and glistening, but it seems like the owners have a flair for interior design and a taste for nice things.

I was amused at how the caretaker is very comfortable with this property & clearly has lived through hundreds of people coming in here and marvelling at the interior. She has been here to open the place for many people, quietly acknowledging the space's beauty.


The village of Lequille is only 2.5km (1.5mi) from Annapolis Royal and with Annapolis Royal's importance in the late 19th-century, it offered many places of worship. Old St. Alban's was built in Lequille in 1892 as a chapel of ease, for those in Lequille who may not be able or willing to travel to Annapolis Royal for their Anglican services.

You can see that nowadays the pulpit is a place that delivers food instead of sermons, while the priest's quarters off to the left is now a bedroom. To the other side of the pulpit was the main entryway and space for the fridge.

There was another bedroom behind me, with the main bathroom off to the right/front of the church.

Walking upstairs into what would have been the choir or organ loft, the reading loft was cast under late-evening light easing in through the close-up Catherine window.

The night was spent relaxing and taking in the beauty of the main area, where I then woke up early to take advantage of the reading loft with a few more chapters of 12 Years a Slave.

I regretted not taking all of my pictures in the evening as the lighting was much better & the conditions easier to manipulate. That's something to be learned for next time though.

In the above picture you can also see the homemade bread and jam that was waiting at Old St. Alban's. This was not a stressful or disagreeable night's stay.

In hindsight I wish I was more prepared for the stay as I didn't realize how much time I wanted to spend here. Then again, I don't know what I'd cut out in terms of Turkish, Spryfield, the Bear River Winery or Digby scallops.

Maybe such a finely converted, rustic old Anglican Church is the type of place you just don't want to leave.

Alas, it was time to head into Annapolis Royal, where I had noticed the fine houses even before I started to pay attention to architecture like I do nowadays.

Annapolis Royal is such an attractive little town of stunning homes, that we parked the car and spent some of the morning walking around checking out the scene.

Even though I had been to the pub down the street from the Annapolis Lighthouse - most memorably after hiking 20ish km in Kejimkujik National Park and then needing celebratory food/a pint - I hadn't even stopped at the lighthouse to photograph it or pay enough attention for it to count as having been seen.

Speaking of that pub, it was close enough to lunchtime that I wanted to relive that memory by stopping their for our own lunch today. Strangely enough, for all of the places and pubs I've forgotten or misremember, my mental picture of that post-Keji time was damn close to the actual scene. In addition, the pint selection was respectable and the interior space couldn't be beat. I sat there and wondered why nowhere outside St. John's can manage the same atmosphere in Newfoundland.

An old picture of the Annapolis Lighthouse and the excitement that used to surround it, hung on the wall in the pub.

Afterwards we walked around a bit more, but as it was getting into the afternoon, it was time to go.

Not enough time for Old St. Alban's, not enough time for Annapolis Royal...

Taking the back roads from Annapolis Royal, we were now really getting into the country where I used to live. The pubs I frequented, the trails I ran & the arenas where I played hockey (like every week in Bridgetown, above). The most interesting thing for me was passing places that I totally forgot about, "oh yeah! that little chip restaurant (Pearle's)! I totally forgot about that place!"

It was also great to go back through the small village where I lived for that year of college, reminiscing and remembering all of the houses where I had such great times.

Continuing along, even as we then drove down forest roads and country laneways, we couldn't find the abandoned thing that actually brought us to this area.

So we continued on to the Bay of Fundy shore, to get the Port George Lighthouse I never managed to stop and visit previously. One of the highlights was Shelloo, being quite used to the substantial and remote lighthouses of Newfoundland, being caught off guard by this sudden small lighthouse right in the village of Port George.

They can't all be Cape Spear, Point L'Amour or West Quoddy Head Light.

The Port George Lighthouse was built in 1887 and came to be community owned at some point in its lifetime. In the 1930s the wharf it marked was washed away & the lighthouse was then moved uphill to this point along the road. The community of Port George continues to own the lighthouse and completed their own renovations of the light in 2016.

I have to admit it looked pretty good even on this pre-renovation day in 2015.

Leaving Port George, we drove for a while before finding a noticeably old house along the NS-101 highway. I thought I vaguely remembered something about this house being threatened or undergoing demolition by neglect or something - even though I couldn't immediately bring up the details of this memory.

After the expulsion of the Acadians from this area in the 1750s, there was a mass movement of New Englanders who were invited to relocate here by the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia. Samuel Witter was one of these New England Planters as they were known, and he took up the land at Avonport and either built this house himself in the 1760s, or one of his descendants built it soon after. Researchers have found interior details that are consistent with the late 1760s and therefore that is the generally accepted date of construction.

As this was a stop along the stagecoach line to Annapolis Royal, this house would become Witter's Tavern sometime between 1800 and 1825. Eunice Witter and her husband Joshua Reid would take over ownership in 1837 and the house would then stay in the Reid family until 1989. In addition to serving beers from the tavern, Reid acquired a pub license, held court in the tavern as a justice of the peace, ran a post office for Avonport and held elections inside the home/tavern.

Around the year 1900, descendent Percy Bayfield Reid would marry a 22yo Margaret Higgins. Margaret would outlive Reid and marry another man by the name of Charles Magee - living in total, in this Reid House for 79 years.

For all of that history, the house was clearly empty and you can see roof deterioration in the various Google StreetViews. Hopefully something can be done for this 1760(!) house, but it also has a weird location where Highway 101 cut right next to the house and separated it from its original farmland.

The reason I got off the highway at the Reid House was that the Horton Bluff Lighthouse was very close to the highway here. Marking the entrance to the Avon River, the Horton Bluff Lighthouse shines out onto the Minas Basin - the waterbody underneath the little 'handle' of Nova Scotia that connects to New Brunswick.

This lighthouse was built in either 1961 or 1984 (sources disagree). It was discontinued in 2013, something that was apparent from the red paint fading into orange since the last pictures I had seen.

It was past the time that I should have headed on towards Prince Edward Island, but I had one last stop I had to make in Windsor (Nova Scotia, that is).

Here stands the oldest covered hockey arena in Canada. An 1897 wooden structure, the Stannus Street Rink was home to the Windsor Swastikas from 1905 to 1916 and the Windsor Maple Leafs from 1959 to 1964.

Windsor built their still-in-use Hants Exhibition Arena in 1981, which would mean the Stannus Street Rink was in use until 1981? Amazingly, for the oldest arena in Canada, there's not much information online about the building.

Somewhere along the way, a car dealership came to own the building and the interior space is now used for storing vehicles.

What I never understood was how Windsor bills itself as the Birthplace of Hockey and is really proud of this fact, but they let the oldest hockey arena - which happens to be in their hockey birthing town - sit as a place to store a few cars. In addition, the little Tayners and Xaydens of Windsor can't play in a 35yo hockey arena anymore, so they're looking to replace Hants Exhibition Arena with a new "state-of-the-art" arena that will incorporate the town's hockey heritage in displays and a museum.

The town recently surprised me though. It was announced in 2016, after the arena owner put this building up for sale, that the Town of Windsor was actually considering purchasing the building. Councillor Sean Geddes stated that the purchase of the rink would be a "no-brainer" and that this would be a "massive piece of preservation of hockey for the Town of Windsor."

The news article also helped me with another thing: I always wondered how such a historic property didn't have designation and apparently it was a case of not wanting to designate it historically during private ownership. The only problem being that if the owner were granted a demolition permit, the arena could be demolished the next day without any means to halt demolition.

Let's hope that news article results in more action than talking.

Anyway, from here we would rush towards Prince Edward Island to meet our friends and explore over there...Part 2.


Go Back to the Main Page of this Website

< Older Update:
Peckford Island, Part 1 or Part 2


Newer Update:
Double-Digit PEI Lighthouses >

1 - New Windsor arena complex to get $3M from province, Chronicle Herald
2 - New arena proposed for Windsor, birthplace of hockey, CBC NS
3 - Windsor considers buying the oldest covered hockey rink in Canada, Hants Journal, Jan 16, 2016
4 - Horton Bluff III - NSLPS
5 - Kings County heritage houses at risk - Kings County Advertiser Register, Sept 7, 2015
6 - Reid House - Canada's Historic Places

All text & pictures on this website created by Belle River Nation are copyright Belle River Nation. Please do not reproduce without the written consent of Belle River Nation. All rights reserved.

I appreciate when people let me know I'm using punctuation wrong, making grammatical errors, using Rickyisms (malapropisms) or words incorrectly. Let me know if you see one and the next 40/poutine/coney dog is on me.